A time capsule

I’m sitting here on my laptop, looking through a folder of old photos from my phone and taking a walk down memory lane. There is nothing like a photograph to take you right back to a moment, and to remind you of how you felt in that moment. I know a lot of people don’t take photos of themselves during cancer, which is understandable. For the most part, you usually look like crap. And you don’t necessarily want to document the worst, scariest, saddest part of your life. In my case, I actually took quite a few photos. In fact, I even treated myself to a nice camera early on in my diagnosis, which I used for most of the photos that appeared on this blog.

I also snapped several photos on my crappy Blackberry (hence the mostly poor quality), which I tend to never look at, except for moments like now where I happen upon that folder. Let’s have a look, shall we?

This photo is apparently from the day I had my biopsy. So I'm assuming this was a forced smile...
This photo is apparently from the day I had my biopsy. So I’m assuming this was a forced smile…
I think this was my first time going out post-mastectomy.
I think this was my first time going out post-mastectomy.
In a Starbucks bathroom right after my pre-chemo hair chop. Got to enjoy this style for a whole month before it ended up on my floor and in my garbage bin.
In a Starbucks bathroom right after my pre-chemo hair chop. Got to enjoy this style for a whole month before it ended up on my floor and in my garbage bin.
This is the bruise I got after having dye injected for a CT scan to see if my cancer had spread. I cried so hard when I took the bandaid off and saw it. Yuck.
This is the bruise I got after having dye injected for a CT scan to see if my cancer had spread. I cried so hard when I took the bandaid off and saw it. Yuck.
Before I was wheeled away for my port placement. Feigning excitement.
Before I was wheeled away for my port placement. Feigning excitement.
A clump of my hair as it started to fall out.
A clump of my hair as it started to fall out.
My sis bought my this nail polish during chemo. It's called "Enuff is enuff."
My sis bought me this nail polish during chemo. It’s called “Enuff is enuff.”
My zombie/nearly-dead look which I sported most of the winter.
My zombie/nearly-dead look which I sported most of the winter.
One of a few chemo shopping sprees I had when I happened to have a burst of energy.
One of a few chemo shopping sprees I had when I happened to have a sudden burst of energy.
This was pretty much the lowest of the low. Splotchy steroid cheeks and bald as hell and not even able to muster up a fake smile. Yeesh.
This was pretty much the lowest of the low. Splotchy steroid cheeks and bald as hell and not even able to muster up a fake smile. Yeesh.
Chemo did all kinds of bad things to me, including causing extreme dry eyes that were constantly painful and looked disgusting. Ew, this pic.
Chemo did all kinds of bad things to me, including causing extreme dry eyes that were constantly painful and looked disgusting. Ew, this pic.
One thing that just kept on going was my appetite. So much food, all the time.
One thing that just kept on going was my appetite. So much food, all the time.
The fat-face/pumped full of steroids look.
The fat-face/pumped full of steroids look.
Walmart hat fashion.
Walmart hat fashion.
One of my few wig days.
One of my few wig days.
The beginning of the regrowth phase when I became obsessed with taking photos of my scalp to see if I had hair. This photo was taken exactly one year ago.
The beginning of the regrowth phase when I became obsessed with taking photos of my scalp to see if I had hair. This photo was taken exactly one year ago.
Is it growing? OMG I think it's growing!
Is it growing? OMG I think it’s growing!

These photos now cause a huge range of emotions when I look at them: sad, shocked, angry, proud, amazed. I’m glad I have so many photos, if anything, to remind me how much has changed in such a short amount of time. And how much, for better or worse, could change again. How it’s all out of my control and how I need to be grateful that, for the time being, my current photos consist of me smiling, having fun, feeling healthy, and with a full head of hair.

Beyond the scars

Hey blog! I’m sorry I’ve been neglecting you. I haven’t felt too inspired to write lately. Most of my brain power has been focused on writing cover letters and going on interviews, which is actually quite mentally taxing, although necessary. But writing and talking about job stuff is kind of boring after awhile. I mean, as much as I love writing/talking about what a stellar employee and brilliant human being I am, it can be a bit draining. Sometimes I wish the whole “having cancer” thing could just give me a free pass, and serve as a kind of certificate of excellence – proof that I can “deal with stressful situations” and “overcome challenges.” I mean, any kind of workplace high pressure situation really now pales in comparison to the kind of stress and types of decisions I’ve had to make. Alas, cancer doesn’t get you a free pass, and I’m just the same as all you other cancer-freeĀ unemployed suckers out there. C’est la vie.

Other than spending my days in pursuit of the next job, there really isn’t too much else to report. It’s been over a month since my last cancer-related appointment, which I think is the longest I’ve gone since 2012. And I must say, I really am enjoying the break. It’s nice to see things on my calendar like “movie night” or “girls’ brunch” instead of “MRI” or “blood draw.” More and more, I am distancing myself from the cancer community and feeling like it was all some sort of drawn-out, psychotic dream. The potential for a normal existence, at least for the immediate future, really feels like a reality now. I wish I could just completely ignore and forget about it all, but the hot flashes and chest tightness and various other bodily defects stop me from doing so. I am living every day with all of the effects of trying REALLY hard to prevent my cancer from spreading, and although I have zero regrets about any of the choices I have made, it’s still a challenge to live with the many consequences of my so-called “battle.”

There’s an art exhibit in Toronto right now called the SCAR Project. You might have heard of it — photographs of young women with breast cancer, with their chests exposed, scars and all. I’ve seen a lot of press about the exhibit, especially since I’m wrapped up in this “young breast cancer community” so it’s impossible not to be aware of these types of things. The gallery is actually very close to where I live, so I thought of popping by one day while it’s here. It seems like something I should “support” since these are “my people.” Yet there’s also something keeping me away from it. I believe in the importance of these images, especially as contrast to all the “pinkifying” of breast cancer, where all we see is images of women who look healthy, and happy, and whole. Breast cancer, in my humble opinion, is extremely ugly and horrific, and I think we do the “cause” a great injustice when we try to cover that up.

However, right now, I’m kind of in a place where I’m trying to move past the harsh realities of breast cancer. I don’t know if I really need to stare at a bunch of images that remind me of what’s happened to me. I don’t need the reminder or the education — I get it every single time I look in the mirror and see gigantic scars. I am my own “real image” of a young woman with breast cancer. All I have to do is lift my shirt, and there I have it, my very own art exhibit. And for right now, I think that’s enough for me. I commend the women who posed for these photos and truly think they’re brave for doing so. But I think I’ll likely avoid checking out the images in person, at least for the time being. I don’t want to compare my scars to their scars or my reconstruction to theirs. I don’t want to feel any more anger or sadness than I already do about breast cancer and what it has done to me, and continues to do to way too many young women. I guess, in a sense, I’m taking shelter with the exact group that the SCAR Project is trying to oppose – the group that wants to ignore the ugliness of breast cancer and look away and pretend it doesn’t exist.

I guess for now, that’s just where I’m at. I want to pretend it doesn’t exist. I want to live in ignorance, just for a single second. I have spent so much time in the ugly, scary, dark world of breast cancer. I don’t wish to immerse myself in it anymore right now. I want a pretty, fuzzy, pink, happy image. I know it’s not real. I can’t un-know it. I know what lies beneath it all. But sometimes, we all need to allow ourselves to “make-believe” and pretend and imagine that everything is just fine and dandy and perfect and everything will be okay. And who knows. Maybe it will be.

 

2013: A year in pictures

2013 was quite the year. Lots of happy times. Lots of not so happy times. It’s been a long year, and I am ready to move on to the next one, and start looking forward.

May 2014 be filled with good times, good friends, good family, good health… and 100% less cancer.